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The Spirit in Question–mysteries abound in the old playhouse

The Spirit in Question

by Cynthia Kuhn

The Spirit in QuestionHaving enjoyed the first two cozy mysteries in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series, I was looking forward to another. This book has many good features. Readers are filled in on background quickly. The series branches out from the typical college professor tenure issues by focusing on Professor Lila Maclean’s role as dramatic consultant to a play written by one Stonydale professor and directed by a visiting professor from France. The play is embroiled in conflicts over changes the director wants to make as well as picketing by the local historical society over potential damages to the Opera House, an old theater with a flamboyant and murderous past. 

Cynthia Kuhn, the author of The Spirit in Question, chooses to develop her plot with a lot of paranormal activity, even bringing in the Spirit Wranglers who try to prove ghostly existence for their TV viewers. Is a ghost responsible for accidents and murders or is there a human element at work? Not a fan of paranormal novels, I did not enjoy this cozy mystery as much as the others in the series. I did enjoy watching Lila unravel some of the mystery threads and obtain a confession. I’m assuming the author will drop the paranormal focus in future books and resume mysteries that look more at life in the Colorado university town of Stonedale and Lila’s role there as a professor.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #3 in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series, but effective as a standalone

2. Author and characters seem to be unable to decide if there was paranormal activity involved in the mysterious happenings in the theater.

Publication:   October 2, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

I knew I needed to focus the conversation so that she wouldn’t begin regaling me with a cascade of memories about the time she went here or there with future celebrity x, y, or z. Once that train left the station, there would be no stopping it.

Gavin scratched his head, resulting in a dry little scratchy sound that made me want to run for the nearest tank of hand sanitizer.

…somehow it was difficult to think of him as actively guilty. He was more like a casualty swept up in the tsunami of her relentless determination.

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Six Feet Under–deadly Southern cooking

Six Feet Under

by Tonya Kappes

Six Feet UnderSix Feet Under is a cozy mystery by Tonya Kappes. I had read the first one in the series and then didn’t follow up with books two and three. Forgetting that there is a paranormal aspect to this series, I requested an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. I do not normally enjoy or choose to read anything with paranormal elements.

I have mixed feelings about the book. The paranormal comes in the form of the main character’s ghost sidekick, Poppa. Kenni is the elected sheriff in a small Kentucky town and her grandfather Poppa was previously a sheriff in Cottonwood as well.  Kenni grew up discussing crimes with Poppa. In these books, his ghost provides her with clues and a sounding board for her theories. Poppa supplies humor and complexity as Kenni has to guard her conversations with him so people won’t think she is crazy.

Six Feet Under is well-crafted, interesting, and humorous. I admit I enjoyed the tale including all the “Southernisms” of the characters. The romantic interest with her deputy sheriff is good, and the side threads help keep the story going. I was surprised by the the ending. In conclusion, if lighthearted paranormal doesn’t bother you, then you will enjoy this fun cozy mystery.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #4 in the Kenni Lowry Mystery Series

Publication:   March 13, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

It wasn’t until I’d accepted the fact that Poppa was my guardian angel deputy from the great beyond that I realized he’d been scaring away any would-be criminals during those first two years of my term. Since then, whenever Poppa showed up, I knew there was some sort of crime about to happen. Though I loved seeing him, it made me feel sick to know the reason he was here.

…being on the front of the Chronicle was better than butter on a biscuit for Mama.

For years they’d bragged on Mama’s cooking, but I just figured they were nice compliments with underlying meanings, like our famous saying, bless your heart. It sounded good, but when you shaved back the layers, it was a dagger in the heart and you didn’t even know it.

Hospitality and Homicide–does evil exist?

Hospitality and Homicide

by Lynn Cahoon

Hospitality and HomicideHospitality and Homicide is the eighth book in the Tourist Trap Mysteries. I have not read any others in the series, but the number of characters are limited and it was easy to jump into the story. The plot is fairly simple; too much emphasis is on the characters’ everyday lives, rather than on the mystery. Halfway into the book the reader knows with certainty Jill’s daily activities, her favorite dessert, her relationship issues, etc. Despite that, the author details them over and over throughout the book. There are undoubtedly some tense moments and some twists, but no cliffhangers. Another issue was the disappearance of a boy. It was unclear how long he had been missing, making that thread somewhat unbelievable. I did enjoy the book and was curious as to how the mysteries would be resolved, but it was not outstanding.

This book has two main plot threads—a brutal murder and a disappearance. One of them involves a psychic who communes with spirits. As a Christian, I usually avoid books with paranormal aspects, but this one slipped under my radar. Initially the theme seemed mild. At the end there was an unresolved issue as to why the psychic was successful in one case and not in another. Holding even more impact for me, however, was the statement made by police detective Greg about someone who committed a horrific, sadistic murder: “I don’t believe in evil, but if I did, this guy would be the picture next to the dictionary definition.” The Bible makes it clear that evil exists, and I would think that anyone who reads news reports would be convinced of that as well. Regardless, I want to clarify that the viewpoint of this book is not a reflection of my beliefs, nor is it a Biblical viewpoint. In looking at teasers of other books in this series, I did not see evidence that the other books in the series contain paranormal elements.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #8 in the Tourist Trap Mystery series. Contains paranormal elements.

Publication:   May 16, 2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Honey, I don’t have to make you sound like a wimp. When it comes to other people, you are a pushover. Everyone in town knows that.”

I know, I own a bookstore and I should be anti-e-readers. But honestly, I’m more concerned that people read than exactly how they read.

A readers’s pride and joy is having an author personally sign their copies of well-loved stories. That’s the reason bookstores will never be replaced by the e-reader. People need their keeper shelves.

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